Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Woman cleared over hunt killing

A woman who shot dead her husband after mistaking him for a bear has been found not guilty of criminal negligence

An American woman who shot dead her husband after mistaking him for a bear while hunting was found not guilty of criminal negligence by a court in Canada.

Mary Beth Harshbarger said she mistook her 42-year-old husband for a bear while the two were hunting in central Newfoundland in 2006.

She had pleaded not guilty in a trial at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The prosecution said Harshbarger showed disregard for safety when she fired her rifle at her husband, but the defence portrayed the death as an accident.

Harshbarger, of Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, would have faced a sentence of four years to life in prison if she had been convicted.

Justice Richard LeBlanc blamed the shooting on "a constellation of unfortunate facts that reasonably caused Mrs Harshbarger to believe she was shooting at a bear."

The prosecution argued that Harshbarger, 45, showed disregard for safety when she fired her rifle at her 42-year-old husband, Mark, who wasn't wearing an orange safety vest or hat at the time.

Harshbarger has always said she thought she was shooting at a bear when she pulled the trigger in September 2006 as her husband emerged from the bush in central Newfoundland.

The Harshbargers' two children - a young son and daughter - were with their mother in a pick-up truck parked about 60 yards from where their father was killed.

During the nine-day trial, a hunting guide told the court that she became "hysterical" when she was told she had killed her husband. Defence lawyer Karl Inder agreed hunters must know what they're shooting at before pulling the trigger, but added "it's also true that accidents happen."

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